Italy: why did 67 refugees drown?

Italy is still shaken by the deaths of 67 refugees who drowned off the coast of Calabria last weekend. According to the port authority they could have been rescued. The Italian press criticises both the authorities and the government in Rome, in particular Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi and Matteo Salvini, Minister for Infrastructure. Europe's press points to an EU-wide failure.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Hypocritical reversal of the facts

The government must be held accountable, La Repubblica demands:

“Behind this massacre there is a criminal responsibility that will be established by the judiciary and a colossal political responsibility on the part of the Meloni government. It considers immigration a matter of public order and relegates the lives of children, men and women to second place. It is this same dramatically hypocritical view that is driving ministers Salvini and Piantedosi to obscure the blame for the deadly inefficiency by inverting the reality behind the facts: for them the problem is the refugees' departure, not the question of whose fault it was that they crashed on the rocks.”

La Stampa (IT) /

All concerned rejecting blame

The new law hindering the work of private sea rescuers casts a long shadow on the new government, La Stampa notes:

“It is clear that what happened on Saturday night calls into question the government's strategy of countering rescues by NGO ships. The investigations launched into the incident are also bringing other grave details to light. According to the port authority, rescues would have been possible and the sea conditions would not have prevented them, as stated. Piantedosi blames Frontex, whose plane first spotted the boat carrying the refugees, for not raising the alarm. The blame game continues.”

El País (ES) /

A chronic crisis

El País complains that Europe is leaving Italy to deal with the problem on its own:

“The scale of the tragedy demands a thorough investigation and the Italian authorities must be held accountable. Moreover, the boat tragedy in Calabria once again shines a spotlight on the lethal inefficiency of European policy on irregular immigration in the Mediterranean. For a decade now, Italian governments have been rightly asking for help to deal with a chronic crisis. In 2022 alone, 104,061 people arrived by sea. ... The deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean are an almost daily occurrence and a test for the EU not only regarding concrete policies but also its fundamental principles.”

Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Waiting in vain for new solutions

Jornal de Notícias takes the EU to task for not making progress on the issue of migration:

“After years of failed negotiations, stalemates and blockades, the European Commission presented the proposal for a new migration and asylum pact in September 2020, which aims to create a predictable and reliable common framework. Since then, more than two years have passed without the plan being adopted. Instead a new dispute has broken out over the question of whether walls should be built at Europe's external borders, and who should finance them. ... In other words, this issue represents a dangerous U-turn and a step backwards for the European project itself.”

The Independent (GB) /

No one is illegal

The Independent is appalled by the terms often used to refer to people seeking refuge:

“It's worth repeating that, in law, there is no such thing as an 'illegal migrant', because there is a universal human right for anyone to claim asylum and refugee status in a signatory nation to the ECHR. It is as simple as that. If their claims are rejected, then they are still people - people who deserve better than to be labelled with dehumanising terms like 'illegals'. And, if they are primarily economic migrants, then it must be said, their labour is much needed.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Saving lives is our duty

Sea rescues must no longer be left in private hands, the Wiener Zeitung demands:

“Horror stories like this have been making the headlines with frightening regularity for the past ten years. Just as frustrating is the fact that there are no simple solutions that could change this situation quickly and easily. There are no political majorities in the West in favour of a liberal migration and asylum policy. ... The duty to save lives must not be called into question. States cannot delegate it to private individuals. So there is much to be said for having this work organised by the state and with help from the EU.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

As if we didn't know about it

Having passed a law last week making the work of civilian sea rescuers more difficult, Italy's government bears responsibility for this tragedy, La Repubblica fumes:

“Yesterday's deaths should at least wake us up and make us fight the inhumanity of decrees against sea rescue that bring shame upon us. As Italians, as human beings who are witnesses to this endless carnage. What more must happen before we feel the need to shout that this is not a natural disaster but the result of foolish decisions? How many more deaths must there be before we can no longer say I knew nothing? ... We know, and very well at that.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Cynical defamation of the rescuers

Oliver Meiler, Süddeutsche Zeitung's Italy correspondent, is appalled at the way the Italian government criminalises and harasses the sea rescuers:

“The migrants don't set sail because they know they will be rescued by NGOs, as the right-wing claims. This prospect is at best a lottery, a bet on life. Rather, their urge for a better, more dignified, safer life is so great that it drives them to take to the sea despite the immense dangers. How cynical is it to hinder the handful of helpers who can save them in their hour of need?”